Book Award

2011 Outstanding Book Award for Civic Scholarship

The Reflections Civic Scholarship Outstanding Book Award is presented annually
 to the author(s) or editor(s) of a book published in the past two years whose
 work engages public and/or disciplinary
 conversations about civic engagement
 in issues of writing, rhetoric, and literacy in innovative, compelling, and
 challenging ways. The goal of this award is to recognize scholarship that

  • provides a research model that bridges academic and community systems and
 practices of knowledge production
  • exhibits a writing style designed to speak to audiences within and potentially
 beyond the specific fields of rhetoric and composition
  • demonstrates a methodological framework that theorizes ways to create inclusive, ethical, and reciprocal relationships within communities
  • promotes public discussion about the nature of civic responsibility both
 inside and outside of the academy

We are pleased to announce the award winners for this year:

Award Winner:

The Public Work of Rhetoric: Citizen-Scholars and Civic Engagement (Studies in Rhetoric/Communication) [Hardcover]

John M. Ackerman (Editor), David J. Coogan (Editor)

The Public Work of Rhetoric presents the art of rhetorical techné as a contemporary praxis for civic engagement and social change, which is necessarily inclusive of people inside and outside the academy. In this provocative call to action, editors John M. Ackerman and David J. Coogan, along with seventeen other accomplished contributors, offer case studies and criticism on the rhetorical practices of citizen-scholars pursuing democratic ideals in diverse civic communities–with partnerships across a range of media, institutions, exigencies, and discourses.

Challenging conventional research methodologies and the traditional insularity of higher education, these essays argue that civic engagement as a rhetorical act requires critical attention to our notoriously veiled identity in public life, to our uneasy affiliation with democracy as a public virtue, and to the transcendent powers of discourse and ideology. This can be accomplished, the contributors argue, by building on the compatible traditions of materialist rhetoric and community literacy, two vestiges of rhetoric’s dual citizenship in the fields of communication and English. This approach expresses a collective desire in rhetoric for more politically responsive scholarship, more visible impact in public life, and more access to the critical spaces between universities and their communities.

The compelling case studies in The Public Work of Rhetoric are located in inner-urban and postindustrial communities where poverty is the overriding concern, in afterschool and extracurricular alternatives that offer new routes to literate achievement, in new media and digital representations of ethnic cultures designed to promote chosen identities, in neighborhoods and scientific laboratories where race is the dominant value, and in the policy borderlands between universities and the communities they serve. Through these studies and accounts, the contributors champion the notion that the public work of rhetoric is the tough labor of gaining access and trust, learning the codes and histories of communities, locating the situations in which rhetorical expertise is most effective, and in many cases jointly defining the terms for gauging social change.

 Honorable Mention:

Going North Thinking West: The Intersections of Social Class, Critical Thinking, and Politicized Writing Instruction [Paperback]

Irvin Peckham (Author)

A long-time writing program administrator and well-respected iconoclast, Irvin Peckham is strongly identified with progressive ideologies in education. However, in Going North Thinking West, Peckham mounts a serious critique of what is called critical pedagogy—primarily a project of the academic left—in spite of his own sympathies there.

College composition is fundamentally a middle-class enterprise, and is conducted by middle-class professionals, while student demographics show increasing presence of the working class. In spite of best intentions to ameliorate inequitable social class relationships, says Peckham, critical pedagogies can actually contribute to reproducing those relationships in traditional forms—not only perpetuating social inequities, but pushing working class students toward self-alienation, as well. Peckham argues for more clarity on the history of critical thinking, social class structures and teacher identity (especially as these are theorized by Pierre Bourdieu), while he undertakes a critical inquiry of the teaching practices with which even he identifies.

Going North Thinking West focuses especially on writing teachers who claim a necessary linkage between critical thinking and writing skills; these would include both teachers who promote the fairly a-political position that argumentation is the obvious and necessary form of academic discourse, and more controversial teachers who advocate turning a classroom into a productive site of social transformation.

Ultimately, Peckham argues for a rereading of Freire (an icon of transformational pedagogy), and for a collaborative investigation of students’ worlds as the first step in a successful writing pedagogy. It is an argument for a pedagogy based on service to students rather than on transforming them.

 Congratulations to both recipients of this year’s book award!

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